Budget and the Beast
By Brian Hale / 04/03/2019 / Your Money
My wife and I never acknowledged the need to dig deep into our spending habits and develop that super scary and restrictive b-word: BUDGET. So, we avoided the conversation altogether.
When you have to talk about a household budget, there’s a proverbial elephant in the room; it’s very personal. It feels invasive and makes us vulnerable. But it might surprise you how important a household budget can be.
We kept dancing around the elephant in the room for years because developing a budget meant changing our lifestyle. It was so much easier (and way more fun) to whip out the credit card, enjoy the instant gratification of new things and not worry about how to pay for it — until the numbers in our bank account were smaller than the numbers in the “minimum due” line on the bill statement.
The elephant had grown so large that we couldn’t ignore it any longer. It was suffocating us.
So, we did it. We had “the talk.” And it was one of the toughest and most uncomfortable, yet most gratifying and beneficial conversations we have ever had. Here’s what worked for us:
- Acknowledge the need for change. We finally had to acknowledge that our current lifestyle wasn’t sustainable. The dwindling numbers in our account were proof of that. We talked through what could happen if our current habits continued, and it really hit home that we needed to change right away.
- Analyze our spending habits. It can be very empowering when you look at every cent you spend and decide if that spending was really necessary. A lot of times, it’s not. We used a budgeting worksheet and summoned the help of a mobile app to better understand where and how we were spending.
- Develop a realistic plan of action. This part took some self-control, as we wanted to pay off our debts as fast as we could. Being responsible with your finances means paying debts responsibly and realistically. Don’t overextend yourself. Once you list all your debts and what you can pay on them each month, compounding your payments as you go can be a great way to drive down your debt quickly.
- Keep ourselves accountable. I’ve heard it takes 21 days to develop a habit. Forming a budget and forgetting about it will bring you right back to square one. We simply used our voice assistant on our cellphones to set a weekly reminder to log in, look at our spending and see where we were on our budgets. This put us in a great spot to move forward confidently and keep the momentum going.
I won’t lie, it was mentally draining, uncomfortable and took discipline. But at the end, we both felt that the weight had been lifted. The elephant was no more.
Acknowledging the problem is often the first step to solving it. Realizing that finances are the most important thing in maintaining our lifestyle and assets, we (finally) made it a priority to have the conversation.
If you’re in a similar situation, have the conversation and own that ugly, vulnerable, uncomfortable feeling. Develop a realistic budget and hold yourself accountable. In the long run, it’ll pay dividends to not only your wallet but also to your stress levels and confidence.
You can also tackle that pesky elephant who’s always hanging around.